Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dumbo (2019)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Tim Burton Productions

Dumbo – Film Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

Director: Tim Burton

Synopsis: When an elephant in the care of a struggling circus gives birth, the young creature is born with rather large ears. When it’s discovered that he can fly, the circus makes him its newest attraction to turn around its fortunes…

Review: It is very hard not to look at most of these live action re-imaginings of classic animated Disney films of yesteryear as nothing more than cynical cash grabs. For some of these films, you look at them and just think, there is no reason for these films to be remade. However, in the case of Dumbo, since the original film came out over seventy years ago, a remake does seem warranted.  However, with three live action remakes set to grace the big screen this year, Disney is only just getting started, and everyone’s favourite big eared elephant is the first one in its sights.

It is 1919, and Holt (Farrell) has just come home from the First World War, a war that has taken a heavy toll on him. In his absence, his kids Millie (Parker) and Joe (Hobbins) have been enduring a difficult time, with their circus, led by Max Medici (DeVito) really falling on hard times. However an opportunity to revive their ailing fortunes presents itself with the arrival of an adorable young elephant, who happens to be born with unusually large ears. Initially the subject of much derision and ridicule, most notably from Medici, this turns to awe when it’s revealed that this young creatures’s ears give him the ability to fly. This soon attracts the attention of V. A. Vandevere (Keaton), the owner of a much bigger circus/theme park.

Cuteness overload…

Given that humans didn’t feature in the original, and that the original film was just over an hour, Ehren Kruger’s screenplay has to expand on the source material. As such the human characters become the main focus of the film, and not the titular little elephant. Given that they’re the focus of the plot, the screenplay tries to give the humans something substantial to work with, and the results are mixed. DeVito is on reliably entertaining form as Medici, but it’s Holt’s daughter Millie who steals the spotlight as she is the most fleshed out character. She is a very strong willed young woman who has a keen interest in science, as well as taking care of Dumbo and helping him adapt to circus life, alongside her brother.

Parker’s performance shows that she has inherited those acting chops from her mother Thandie Newton. By contrast, none of the other human characters are really given much development, despite some of the stellar names in the cast. Michael Keaton’s character especially feels really out of place, with an accent so peculiar it’s hard to fathom what accent it is or why he’s speaking in that manner. One quick glance at the filmography of Tim Burton, and you would quickly realise that his imagination as a director is as dark and eccentric as they come. With that said, he doesn’t seem to be the most natural choice to bring Dumbo’s story to a new generation. Given the target market of the film, there’s obviously nothing as macabre or as freaky that Burton’s imagination has previously brought to the big screen.

Though, as one might expect with Burton, there are some dark undertones. Yet the direction for the most part feels very safe and doesn’t really take any risks, which feels like a missed opportunity as the scope was there to explore a dark side to the circus. The CGI for Dumbo is really well done and, as you would expect, Dumbo is completely adorable and above all else, in spite of the glittering array of talent in this cast, it’s this sweet little elephant that you find yourself rooting for the most, if only he had that little bit more screen time.

The cast try their hardest, but an indifferent script and the mismatch of tones prevent this live action re-imagining from soaring, but, thanks to the adorable titular elephant, it does get off the ground.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Image is property of Disney and Pixar Animation Studios

Incredibles 2 – Film Review

Cast:  Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: With the world still distrustful of superheroes,  Elastigirl is recruited in a secret mission in order to win back the public’s trust, all the while Mr Incredible must manage their super-powered children.

Review: Cast your minds back to 2004, a time before superhero films were billion dollar cinematic universe juggernauts, cropping up here there and everywhere. like they do today. As such when the first Incredibles film debuted, it was released in a market nowhere near as competitive as it is today. Therefore how do you ensure that you stand out from the crowd?  For returning writer/director Brad Bird, the answer is, stick to your guns.

Given the amount of time that has passed between the two movies being released, that a similar amount of time would have passed in the lives of the Parrs, thus putting a new  on the tale of this family. However, this this film dives straight back in, picking up pretty much almost immediately where the last film left off, with the family facing off against the dastardly Underminer.

All the while despite their heroism, superheroes are still illegal putting them in a tricky predicament. This is until a chance to win back the faith of the public opens itself up to Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). All the while Mr Incredible (Craig T Nelson) must look after their 3 children, a task that is the trickiest of tests even for a superhero Dad. Teenage daughter temper tantrums, problems with homework, and a baby whose powers are frighteningly, but at the same time, hilariously unpredictable.

The real strength of this film lies in its action sequences, which are just as enthralling as those of its predecessor. What’s more, given that her role the first time around was not as front and centre as her husband. Seeing Elastigirl taking the lead role, is undeniably awesome to see. In the void that was left behind by Syndrome, the villain here is one who goes by the name of the Screenslaver, intensely critical of humanity’s incessant screen addiction. This is certainly an interesting plot thread but it is disappointingly not explored to the extent that you would have liked the film too, and given the sheer quality of a villain like Syndrome, the antagonist here is nowhere near as compelling as Syndrome was. Furthermore their motivations are a bit flimsy, and the direction they go in can be spotted from a mile off.

The film’s pacing is a little sluggish at times, but when the action is going down, it is extremely entertaining. Given Brad Bird made a Mission Impossible film, in between his Incredible endeavours, there is a strong MI vibe present here, and all the better for it. On top of that, with the central theme of the importance of the family definitely reinforced once again, it neatly ties itself in with the first film. There is no emotional gut punch that previous Pixar efforts such as Inside Out or Coco provided.

However, it more than makes up for that dearth of emotional drama. Given that the first film is regarded by many as being one of Pixar’s finest works, topping that was never going to be easy for Bird, but after such a long wait he delivers a sequel, that while is not as incredible as its predecessor, comes mighty damn close.

A long time in the making, but worth the wait to see this super family back in action, delivering superb action scenes and a great barrel of laughs along the way courtesy of baby Jack-Jack. Incredible by name, incredible by nature.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Coco (2018)

Image is property of Disney and Pixar Animation Studios

Coco – Film Review

Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Edward James Olmos

Directors: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Synopsis: 12 year old Miguel strives to be a musician, but due to a tragic family past, his family won’t allow it. Undeterred, when he’s accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead, he seeks out his ancestor, who was himself a famous musician.

Review: It is perhaps a question that we as humans have been asking ourselves for as long as we have been around, what happen to us when we die? The belief in an afterlife is certainly extremely prevalent among certain cultures, perhaps most notably The Día de Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico. It is on this premise that animation juggernaut Pixar uses as a backdrop for its latest feature film.

After a few sequels, the decision to focus on an entirely original concept is a welcome one, especially since the studio has arguably been at their best when focusing on original concepts (see Inside Out). At the centre of this new tale is Miguel, a young boy who has a passion for playing music. He is desperate to pursue this dream, but a terrible incident in his family’s past means that music is not welcome in his family, instead their focus is solely on their thriving business. Yet this doesn’t stop Miguel from his dreams. But in trying to accomplish these goals, Miguel finds himself in the Land of the Dead, and is in a race against time to get back to the Land of the Living before it is too late.

The true power of music…

For a film that focuses on the afterlife, in which a considerable proportion of the cast are well dead people, seems unlikely to be family friendly material and is perhaps just a bit too macabre for the kids. However as they so often do, Pixar makes it all work an absolute treat. The story they construct is so beautifully told that once again, there are moments here that will tug on your heartstrings to such an extent that any audience member will find it hard to resist the urge to not have a quiet sob.

With Pixar you usually find some of the most beautiful animation to ever grace the big screen, and here they do so once again. The colours on display here are so vivid and just stunning to look at, and the animation feels so life like, that it brings all of the characters to life, whether they are living or if they have moved on. Miguel as our lead is immediately likeable, and despite the aggression he receives from his family for wanting to pursue music, he doesn’t take no for an answer, even when it looks like it will land him in a significant amount of bother.

Once again, Pixar has crafted a story works on two levels to tremendous for both the kids and adults. It explores themes such as love, family and what it means to have a dream, especially if you’re not encouraged to pursue these dreams. With another superb score from Michael Giacchino and what could well be another Oscar winning song in Remember Me from  Frozen duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. At this point, with their filmography brimming with so many beautifully told pieces of storytelling and animation, it is hard for any new release to take its place among the cream of the crop. However, Coco might just ensure it takes its place in that collection, as it is another string in Pixar’s guitar, that almost always hits the right notes.

Delivering animation of the highest quality once again, with another beautifully crafted story that tugs at the guitar strings and the heartstrings in equal measure. Another Pixar masterpiece.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Toy Story 3 – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Blake Clark, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Ned Beatty, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, John Morris

Director: Lee Unkrich

Synopsis: With Andy now grown up and heading off to college, having not been played with for several years, the toys face a tricky decision, whether to remain in the attic or move on to pastures new, or more specifically: Daycare.

Review: When you have made two films, the first of which redefined the genre of animated movies, and then you followed that up with another supremely well made and heartfelt sequel that built so successfully on the world that its predecessor established, that is quite the feat. Therefore, when you decide to complete the trilogy, let’s just say that you have an almighty task ahead of you to try and top what came before it. Leave it then to the animation powerhouses Pixar to complete their Toy-tastic trilogy in tremendous style!

Toy Story 2 had quite the superb intro scene, but here they somehow top it with an incredible action scene of sorts that immediately reminds the audience that there is no limit to the imagination when it comes to a child and the toys they have, whilst immediately hitting you in the feels with the “You Got a Friend in Me!” tune, arguably one of the finest songs ever written for a Pixar film. Though Pixar continues to make their films that work on both levels, it’s evident that this is a film that is geared towards those grew up with the first two movies, as they more than others will relate to the feeling of growing up and having that dilemma of what to do with the toys you once cherished more than anything else in your life. Yet as time progresses, that undying love, just slowly just fades away.

Blissfully unaware of what’s coming…

Indeed, this is the very situation Andy finds himself in, what with being off to college and all. Despite a last ditch effort to get attention, Woody and the gang realise that maybe now is the time to find a new life for themselves or risk never getting played with ever again. through a mixture of unfortunate events sees the gang end up at a children’s daycare. Their excitement at a new lease of life quickly turns to horror though as these kids have a VERY different take on the word playtime, and life with Andy is a distant memory now.

In Michael Arndt’s capable hands, the screenplay continues down the path that the first two films walked down. The characters continue to be well developed and compelling, including all of the gang you know and love with a couple of significant new additions. These being a Ken doll (voiced brilliantly by Michael Keaton) and Ned Beatty as Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (AKA Lotso) who is the leader if you will of the Daycare. Smell of strawberries he might, but he’s not as sweet as he comes across. The humour is also maintained throughout the film with a truly hilarious moment in which Buzz is once again convinced he’s a Space Ranger, except he’s gone a bit European! The dialogue is all vintage Pixar and it’s simply joyous to watch.

Though the first two movies had plenty of emotion in them, there’s a couple of scenes here that really pack the emotion in such quantities that if it does not generate an emotional reaction among the watching audience, in which they’re fighting back the tears, one would have to question whether they are indeed human. Pixar films are littered with such moments, but two in particular here, might just be the best of the best. With a superb ending that continues to pack that emotional weight and one that wraps up this trilogy in just about the best way possible. Trilogies tend to have the one film that trips them up, but when a trilogy comes along, with each film being about as close to perfect as it could, that is a rare feat, and kudos to Disney and Pixar for pulling it off.

It’s been quite the journey with Woody, Buzz and co, but as third films in trilogies go, this is one of those rare films that is as good, if not better than what preceded it. Another masterpiece from the brain boxes at Pixar.

Posted in 2010-2019

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Image is property of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Film Review

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci,

Director: Bill Condon

Synopsis: A live action retelling of the story of a young woman who becomes the prisoner of a terrifying beast in a frightening castle, who’s running out of time to lift a terrible curse placed upon him…

Review:  When as a studio you have made an extremely successful bunch of animated films, many of which truly are timeless classics, where do you go from there? The answer is simple really, bring said classics back to the big screen by retelling them via the magic of live action movie making. For Disney Studios, that certainly is the plan and they’re certainly going full steam ahead. First came Maleficent,  then CinderellaThe Jungle Book, and now the tale as old as time has received the live action treatment. Disney’s 1991 animated classic is beloved by just about everyone with a pulse (probably) so the challenge facing the filmmakers cannot have been an easy one, but it is one that they rose to in magnifique style!

Given how beloved the animated version is, there’s much here that they have wisely decided not to alter with things too much. The story is essentially the same as the beautiful Belle, who’s not much liked by the other people in her sleepy little French village, except for Gaston (Evans) of course,  who lusts after her. However Belle’s feelings for Gaston are not mutual, understandable given he’s an extremely pompous idiot. But when Belle’s father ends up imprisoned by the Beast, she offers to take his place, and of course they fall in love in true Disney fashion. The script written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos does follow its predecessor for the most part, but does make the brave but inspired choice to add some new material, which adds just that little bit more depth to the story.

Watson really fits the role of Belle perfectly, she’s sweet, beautiful and certainly isn’t afraid to speak her mind when she has to. Dan Stevens also puts in a really solid performance as the eponymous Beast. His beastly appearance is achieved via motion capture and though is a little jarring to look at first, it is overall very well done, and when he needs to be scary, he certainly is scary, which may frighten some of the younger viewers. The leading duo certainly have the chemistry that is needed to ensure that this remake didn’t end up being a monstrosity of hideous proportions. The rest of the supporting cast is impeccably cast, Evans is tremendous as Gaston, with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts, and Ewan McGregor as the scene stealing Lumiere, and the CG for these guys is for the most part, really well done. The controversy surrounding Josh Gad’s LeFou has certainly generated a lot of attention, and though his character is obviously that way inclined, its not in-your-face in the slightest.

It wouldn’t be a Disney film without the music, and though there are a few new additions in terms of musical numbers, the standout (again) is Lumiere’s rendition of Be Our Guest. Watson too is able to hold her own on the musical side of things and though her versions of songs like Something There don’t quite match up to the versions performed in the animated predecessor, indeed all of the songs from said version are much better, but the tunes are more than pleasant to listen to. What is recaptured tremendously well is the magical nature of the story, which is no small part down to the gorgeous production design and set decoration by Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer. Jacqueline Durran’s costumes too are just beautifully recreated and extremely award worthy. Sales of yellow dresses are likely to go through the roof!

Whatever inspired Disney and their mission to recreate their animated masterpieces into live action we may never know, but what we do know is they’re pulling it out of the bag time after time. The key job of a remake is to take a story that audiences are familiar with and breathe new life into said story, and while the animated feature is and will always be an animated masterpiece, this re-imagining of the tale as old as time, is certainly worth your time.

A charming and beautifully made retelling of a true animated classic that recaptures that magical fairytale feel to it, whilst breathing new life into these characters.

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

beauty-and-the-beast-1991
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Beauty and the Beast– Film Review

Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Michael Pierce, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti

Directors: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Synopsis: A young woman offers to take the place of her father who has been captured by a horrible beast who unbeknown to her, is a prince who has been cursed by a terrible spell.

Review: Walt Disney Animation Studios, synonymous with making the most magical movies that exist on Planet Earth, probably. How fitting then, that they would bring to life what is perhaps the most magical fairytale of them all, and what is perhaps the most well known adaptation. Based on the French fairytale of the same name, published in 1740, focusing on Belle, a beautiful young woman who lives with her father. When her father stumbles upon a dark and mysterious castle and becomes imprisoned by the beastly owner of the castle, she offers to take his place, and what follows is without doubt one of the finest animated movies to ever grace the silver screen, and one that despite being released over a quarter of century ago, has stood the test of time remarkably well.

The third film to be produced as part of the Disney Renaissance, it really in many ways set the benchmark for the films that followed it to reach in terms of making a Disney Princess movie that has had a lasting effect on pop culture, and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the coming years. What makes this film so great is not only its superb animation, which particularly for the time is remarkable. But even more than that are the characters, both leading and support, they are all just so memorable. Belle of course, clue in the name, is a beautiful princess but she’s also intelligent and compassionate, with a great singing voice. Gaston is in many ways Belle’s opposite, brash and rather arrogant who thinks he’s just the best, and that women should just fall at his feet, but of course Belle isn’t buying it.

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There are plenty of memorable tunes, right from the opening number to perhaps the most memorable tune, Be Our Guest, to the beautiful titular song, as performed by the great Angela Lansbury, which indeed won the Oscar for Best Song, which when you listen is easy to see why. The voice acting is flawless from everybody, and the singing too, every note that is sung is perfect, whether it’s Belle’s beautiful voice, or Gaston’s song about being the best man Belle could dream of, pompous to the maximum! Every song does its bit for the story, to move it along, and each of them have become some of the most iconic music, that’s perhaps ever been written for film. In addition, Disney’s films have become synonymous with producing magical fairytales, and this might just be the most magical of them all.

In addition to the Oscar for Best Song, a well deserved gong for Best Original Score, and the film also made movie history by becoming the first full length animated movie to get nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. It is a testament to the film’s quality that it was the first to achieve this honour, and this is before the Academy introduced a separate category for animated features, which is no mean achievement. Even more so that its legacy has endured for well over a quarter of a century now, and with the live action re-imagining shortly upon us, it should only ensure its legacy remains intact for generations to come, ensuring it will retain its status as a true timeless Disney classic, as if that was somehow ever in doubt.

Magical in every sense of the word, from story to characters to music. A truly wonderful piece of cinema that has been, and will continue to be adored for years to come. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tangled (2010)

tangled
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Tangled – Film Review

Cast:  Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy

Directors: Byron Howard and Nathan Greno

Synopsis: Rapunzel is a princess with extraordinary long hair who has been abducted by an evil witch, and raised in a tower, forbidden to go outside. Until one day she defies this rule, and experiences the world for the very first time.

Review: Whenever you sit yourself down for an animated film from Disney Animation Studios, you usually know what you’re in for. Musical numbers, great animation, and some well developed characters that you just want to root for, as well as an antagonist to boo and hiss it, as if you were at a pantomime. For their 48th animated adventure, check, check, check and check! Disney is well known for its princess stories, but what sets this princess apart is her remarkably long hair, that has magical healing powers. The ensuing adventure is familiar-ish territory, princess meets handsome man and they go on an adventure. Is this a problem? No, not at all, because it’s the usual magical brilliance that you expect from Disney.

Originally set to be called Rapunzel, but wisely changed to be the more gender neutral Tangled. The film focuses, as you might expect on the character of Rapunzel, the rather long haired princess in question. Taken from her biological parents shortly after she’s born by an evil witch, who uses her magical hair to stay youthful and beautiful. She is kept locked in a tower by said evil witch who has Rapunzel believe she is her actual mother. Until the mysterious and narcissistic Flynn (Levi) comes along and the opportunity presents itself for Rapunzel to leave her confinement and the chance for her to see something she has been dying to see ever since she was a child. Despite Flynn’s preening of sorts, he’s a man who clearly loves himself, but before long you will find yourself rooting for him as he joins Rapunzel on their adventure, with the usual combination of musical moments and emotional moments with characters you are absolutely invested in, from Rapunzel to Maximus, a horse who is quite the badass, and has quite the appetite for apples.

The chemistry between Rapunzel and Flynn is very strong and well realised, with the voice work from Moore and Levi excellent in bringing these characters to life. With Rapunzel, she her many locks of magical hair and lots of character despite spending, well pretty much her entire adult life confined to her tower. Flynn is of course the handsome, mischievous crook, who she uses as an opportunity to break free of her confinement. Both characters go on an emotional journey and their character development is very strong and excellently realises. With Disney you almost expect great music and they provide this once again with some superb tunes. Also well developed in her evil ways is Mother Gothel who has a few moments where she takes centre stage, and Murphy brings her to life tremendously well.

No one really does Princess films quite like Walt Disney Animation Studios, and here they produced another super hit to add to their remarkable collection of stellar animated films. With each Prince4ss film they tackle, the studio always manages to hit all the familiar tropes, that they have become well know for. However, they all manage to be wholly original and unique in many ways. In this instance, magical hair, a badass horses, great music, likable characters and oh yeah, beating up intruders with frying pans. What more could you ask for in a Disney movie?

The Mouse House brings the magic again with  its fiftieth motion picture, with a great story, terrific music and characters you genuinely have a connection with.

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

The Lion King (1994)

the-lion-king
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

The Lion King – Film Review

Cast:  Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Niketa Calame, Ernie Sabella, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg

Directors: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

Synopsis: A young cub is being prepared by his father, the king of a pride of lions, to become the future king, while the King’s brother secretly plots to seize the throne for himself.

Review: If ever there was a studio that could perfectly demonstrate the enduring power and appeal of animated films that are almost universally adored for their brilliant characters, gorgeous animation and emotional scenes that really threaten to tug at your heartstrings to such an extent you become a big blubbering mess of happy and sad emotions, then Walt Disney Animation Studios and their extraordinary collection of films could be just the studio you were looking for. Yet, if there was one film that does all of the aforementioned things, and a film that has stood the test of time with flying colours, and has built itself an enduring legacy, loved universally by all generations, 1994’s The Lion King certainly ticks all of those boxes, in an emphatic manner.

A soaring and stirring musical number opens proceedings, and for the next ninety minutes or so, you are taken on an enthralling journey set in the heart of Africa, specifically on a pride of Lions, ruled over by Mufasa and his wife Sarabi, and their young cub Simba. The young cub is taught all about life, and more specifically the great Circle of Life, via one of many absolutely brilliant and powerful songs, of which there are aplenty to be found here. Of course, life has its ups and downs and as Simba finds out, sometimes things can take a significant turn for the worse. With little choice, he goes on a journey that anyone watching can and will relate to in some way.

The screenplay, inspired by the works of Shakespeare and more specifically Hamlet, packs plenty of powerful and emotive themes into it. It is profound and deeply moving, that will almost certainly leave a lasting impression on the viewer. the characters have a great many layers to them, perhaps none more so than Simba. Initially a brash, cocky cub, through time he becomes this wise, powerful Lion just like his father Mufasa, voiced by the one and only James Earl Jones. Like most animations, these days, there are more than a few scenes that get the audience emotional, and if you have seen this film, you certainly know what scene in particular here will ensure the audience will be looking for something to wipe away the tears. The voice cast is excellent from Matthew Broderick as Adult Simba, to Rowan Atkinson as Zazu, to Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as Timone and Pumba. Jeremy Irons as the villainous Scar was another excellent casting choice. Last but not least is Robert Guillaume as the hilarious Rafiki (friend in Swahili).

Disney animations have certainly become known for their great and extremely effective use of music in scenes. From the soaring opening number, to the more jovial tunes like Hakuna Matata, to the powerful Can You Feel the Love Tonight, the great songs are aplenty and they’re all extremely memorable. The great songs are exquisitely matched by the score from Hans Zimmer, which as usual, is near enough perfect. Disney has for a while been what some may argue as the champion of animation in cinema, and for an animation that came out over two decades ago, the animation has stood the test of time, and still remains absolutely excellent and breath taking to watch.

The Lion King has ensured it will remain a staple of animated entertainment for a great many years to come. Having generated a very popular  production that has also been on for several years now. It is safe to say that through all of their spectacular and brilliant animated features, there may not be a film that has stood the test of time and left its mark on numerous aspects of popular culture to such an extent, like the Lion King has. Disney has made many movies since, and although their greatness is undoubted, it is worth considering if any since have reached the remarkable heights that have been set by The Lion King. Hakuna Matata indeed!

Beautifully animated, with rich and complex characters, with incredible music and a wonderful score, this is truly one of Disney’s most undisputed masterpieces.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Moana (2016)

moana
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Moana – Film Review

Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk

Directors: Ron Clements and John Musker

Synopsis:  Moana, the daughter of the ruler of an Ancient Polynesian tribe, sets out on a journey to find the demi-god Maui whose actions have threatened to wreak havoc on their way of life.

Review: Is there a movie studio out there that seems as though with each passing film that they release is a massive hit and rakes in the cash at the Box Office? One could make the argument for Marvel Studios, but certainly one studio that seems to be on an unstoppable run at the minute would be Walt Disney Animation Studios. Their first 2016 release Zootopia/Zootropolis raked in over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, and was a smash hit with just about everyone who saw it. Their latest effort proves that the studio is still bringing home the bacon, and in some style too.

The story focuses on our titular character who after being brought up by her father to be the future leader of their clan, is determined to break from the role her parents want her to be, and become the person she wants to be. Their situation becomes somewhat desperate when the demi-god Maui who without spoiling too much, has made some decisions that are threatening their island and way of life with dire consequences. As such, with typical Disney Princess determination and courage, she sets sail in order to save her people. Disney has certainly forged a reputation for telling Princess stories and telling them with beautiful animation, rich and diverse characters, some singing and a really fun and exciting adventure, and Moana is no exception to this trend.

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It is something of a cliche at this point to say that the animation is great because with Disney, you wouldn’t expect anything less, but in this instance the animation is truly something to behold, the sheer amount of detail that has clearly gone into the creation of everything you see on screen is absolutely crystal clear. Directors Ron Clements and Rich Musker, having worked on gems such as Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, certainly bring their strong experience to the table. Of course superb animation would be pretty rubbish if the story with it was no good, but no chance of that here, as the screenplay by Jared Bush, with a little help from one Taika Waititi, is excellent. The gorgeous animation is aided by, as is so often the case with Disney and in particular Disney princess stories, great music and great songs that could very well give Let it Go a strong run for its money, and just maybe an Oscar nod for Original Song.

Disney so often creates multi-dimensional characters that audiences can gravitate to, particularly in the case of Moana, in a similar vein to Frozen’s Elsa is a strong-willed and fierce female protagonist who is not dependent on a man to tell her what or what not she needs to do. Opposite her is of course Dwayne Johnson’s Maui who at first is a bit rude and dismissive of Moana but over the course of the film grows to respect her. The pair make a solid duo and you cannot help but get excited as they go on their adventure, all the while being accompanied by a rather hilarious and somewhat dim chicken named Hei Hei, who certainly tries his hardest to steal the show, and in some cases succeeds.

There are times when the story, although it is very well done, is not sailing any new seas. You would be forgiven for thinking you have been here before, but with the excellent characters that you become invested in, you want to go on this adventure and marvel at the joyous animation on screen. Between this and Zootopia alone, Disney has had one superb year, and if you include Pixar and well Marvel and Star Wars, then the wind is certainly in Disney’s sails alright! Furthermore between Disney’s offerings, Finding Dory and the many other animated films to have graced the silver screen this year, the race for that Animated gong in this year’s Awards season could be a very interesting one indeed.

With every film they make, Disney just keeps making hit after hit, and with breathtaking animation and well developed characters, Moana is another fine piece of work that has all the ingredients to become a future classic.

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Mulan (1998)

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Mulan Film Review

Cast: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Miguel Ferrer, June Foray, Harvey Fierstein, Gedde Watanabe, James Hong, George Takei, Pat Morita

Director: Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook

Synopsis: After her elderly father is called up to serve in China’s army, his young daughter Mulan disguises her self as a man to serve in his place, to help defeat the invading Huns.

Review: For Walt Disney Animation Studios, the period between 1989 and 1999 is known as the Disney Renaissance. Having had something of a difficult time prior to this, the studio came back with a bang, making and releasing ten films during this booming period in animated films, many of which can be considered some of the most successful films the studio has made. The penultimate film of said era, released in 1998, is certainly a fine example of the brilliance and wonder that the studio brought to the big screen.

Set in Ancient China, with war having just been declared after the villainous Hun army invades, the Emperor responds by ordering that one man from every family must serve in the Chinese army. When her elderly father, having served previously is called up yet again, Mulan decides to take action. She will not fulfil the traditional female roles that is of expected of her, instead, she takes her father’s armour, disguises herself as a man, and goes off to join the army in order to protect him. Disney certainly does princess stories perhaps like no other, and here they pull of yet another incredible story. With strong themes of honour, duty and family surging throughout, the film also offers a great example of a strong independent female character who doesn’t bow what was expected, maybe even demanded of a woman at that time, and offers a great role model for all young females to aspire to.

Despite the war that is raging at its heart, Mulan also offers plenty of great humour, this is mostly down to the brilliant work of Eddie Murphy as Mulan’s pint sized sidekick Mushu the dragon, before he was Donkey in the Shrek franchise. The veteran comedian and actor is on superb form here as he attempts to guide Mulan on how to be and act like a man. His lucky accomplice Crickey also does his best to add the humour but the bulk of it comes from Mushu, with more than a few references that will fly over the heads of younger viewers, but will provide adults with a good laugh.

There are more than a few very memorable characters besides Mulan and Mushu of course, some of her recruits in the army are also extremely funny and a lot of fun to watch. The story is very well executed and the animation is of course splendid, with Disney you wouldn’t expect anything less. With superb supporting music by Jerry Goldsmith and Matthew Wilder, along with some really well written and performed songs, Mulan is the perfect blend of exciting and beautiful story telling that the whole family can sit down and enjoy immensely.

With a strong female protagonist at its core, fused with majestic animation and solid story telling and great music, Mulan was a further example of a studio at the very top of their game in the late 90s.

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